Thursday, October 11, 2012

Technology Assisting Employment

The latest edition of ANCOR LINKS, the newsletter for the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) is dedicated to National Disability Employment month, and there’s a great story about a young lady served by Imagine! who is using technology to develop lasting job skills.

 We thought we’d share the story on our blog as well. Enjoy:

When people ask Tom Riley about his job, his response often surprises people. "My job is to work myself out of a job,” Tom says. Tom is director of Colorado-based Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department, which has been providing innovative supported employment solutions for people with disabilities and the businesses that employ them since 1984. Tom’s comment reflects a passion for the importance of work, and the belief that a diverse workforce strengthens society.

Tom sees his role as more than someone who assists individuals with disabilities in finding meaningful employment. He also sees himself as a sort of facilitator, helping members of the community at large in understanding what kind of supports they can provide to help individuals with disabilities become more independent and successful. If Tom can be successful in educating the community, his job of having to teach people employment skills will eventually disappear.

Technology is taking Tom’s dream of working himself out of a job one step closer to reality, and Kendra’s story shows why.

As part of her services through CORE/Labor Source, Kendra is participating in a Project SEARCH program in Boulder, Colorado. Project SEARCH is a national program that provides real-life work experience to help youth with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to adult life. The focus of the program is on helping participants gain work experiences which will prepare them for lifelong employment and independence.

Kendra’s task on the day we visited her was to assemble marketing packets for Boulder Community Hospital. A task prompter on her smart phone offered simple, step-by-step guidance through the job activity

Even with the support and resources of the Project SEARCH team, Kendra still faces challenges in maintaining successful employment. She is currently serving an internship at Boulder Community Hospital, but like many of us, Kendra sometimes struggles to stay focused on her responsibilities.

This is where technology comes in. Kendra has been equipped with a smart phone (which she has named “Lucky”) containing software that provides task prompting for her job duties. When Kendra loses focus or is unsure of her next steps, the task prompter is right there to offer simple, step-by-step guidance through complex job activities.

Kendra shows the screen of her smart phone, which prompts her on her next job tasks

Using the task prompting system has opened a new world of possibilities for Kendra. In years past, she would have required the constant attention of a job coach or a Direct Support Professional in order to maintain any kind of employment. The time and resources needed to support individuals with needs similar to Kendra’s would have likely been a barrier to her ever getting and keeping a job. Now, as she becomes more skilled at using her task prompter, she is becoming more independent and more capable of fulfilling her job responsibilities with a decreasing amount of supervision.

Kendra uses her hand held task prompter, which she has nicknamed “Lucky,” to guide her through her work

The task prompting software is enabling Kendra to become a contributing member of her community, paying taxes and spending her hard earned money at local shops and restaurants. But the benefits of this technology don’t end with individuals like Kendra. It also makes it much easier for businesses to hire, and retain, individuals with disabilities. Something as simple as a hand held task prompter eliminates many of the barriers that have prevented businesses from using this extensive labor pool in the past, and other technologies that address other barriers that have historically limited employment opportunities for people with disabilities seem to be cropping up almost every day. The possibilities seem almost limitless.

No comments:

Post a Comment